SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA — The number of South Koreans who tied the knot last year hit a record low, figures showed Thursday, compounding looming demographic woes in a country with the world’s lowest birth rate.
Some 192,000 couples got married last year, according to the data released by Statistics Korea Thursday, down by more than 40 per cent from a decade earlier in 2012, when 327,000 couples had wed.
This is the lowest number of marriages in a year since records began in 1970.
The average age for men getting married for the first time was 33.7 years old, a record high, the data showed, while the age for brides also hit a record high of 31.3 years old for marriage.
They represent an increase of 1.6 years for men and 1.9 for women for first-time marriage from a decade earlier.
Nearly 80 per cent of couples who got married last year were doing so for the first time.
The new data comes as South Korea is grappling with a chronic decline in its birth rate, with the lowest-ever number of babies — 249,000 — born last year, breaking a previous record low in 2021.
South Korea had long ago passed the so-called replacement rate after which the population begins to shrink with a record-low 0.78 births per woman last year.
The government has spent around 280 trillion won ($213 billion) since 2006 in an effort to boost birth rates but the population is projected to fall from about 52 million to 39 million by 2067 when the median population age will be 62.
Experts say there are multiple causes for the twin phenomenon of low marriage and birth rates, from high child-rearing costs and property prices to a notoriously competitive society that makes well-paid jobs difficult to secure.
The double burden for working mothers of carrying out the brunt of household chores and childcare while also maintaining their careers is another key factor, experts say.